Redneck Riviera Spring Break

I love the Upper Midwest, I really do. But maybe not so much in February. Taking the kids somewhere for spring break each year is a great way to recover from a long winter and reset for the rest of the school year.

Gulf of Mexico from the balcony

Michigan has an interesting take on Spring Break in that all schools take off the same week. This forces many of us to wonder farther from home because all of the local activities are swamped.

Enter the Minivan. I have never understood the self imposed loss of dignity that this purchase is supposed to entail. Minivans are AWESOME. Family friendly land barges. Any loss of my perceived manhood is more than adequately made up for by my family-man pride.

The advancement of electronic games, when combined with the ‘back back seats‘ of the minivan, form a relatively painless travel experience. This new school road trip allows you to move about the country cheaply while avoiding the various degradations of the ‘flying experience‘.

Even shallow Florida (panhandle) is 13 hours away for us. Deep Florida is really 2 different road trips, part 1 “to the Florida line” and part 2 “Florida Forever”.

This year we were just headed to Panama City, Florida.

Still it is worth it to stay the night once at a hotel on the way down. As long as the hotel has a pool, my kids are very happy.

IB Saturn rocket

We try to stay somewhat fast and loose with the travel game plan. Pulling over for random sights on the ways down (like the IB Saturn rocket outside the Huntsville) and setting the route to take us through territory we have not been through yet.

I would like to apologize to the entire state of Alabama. I just assumed, like an ignorant Yankee, that you were a flat, hot, uneventful state that I simply needed to get through. Boy was I wrong, what lovely geography. It reminded me of western PA where I grew up.

Tennessee with its winding valleys through the  the Cumberland Plateau was really beautiful. And Kentucky with its well groomed horse farms. America is neat.

Living so close to the Great Lakes, I have become a lake snob. Seeing the Gulf was a refreshing reminder that saltwater is not that bad. And seeing dolphins was admittedly a real one up for ‘Team Oceans‘.

The Gulf was a terrific blue. It was cleaner than I imagined and less salty than I remembered.

We swam everyday. Although I was hoping for bigger waves. The kids and I can spend a whole day Kung-Fu fighting the crashing waves.

There was all the typical tourist stuff to do in a tourist town. I do not really go in for this, nor do I enjoy crowds. Eventually I will bend the will of my family to the less traveled destinations is search of peace and serenity. But for now, my boys are 8 and 12 and WE LIKE doing tourist crap.

Panama city has undergone a massive shift in it tourism demographics. After particularly bad recent years, the community changed its laws to discourage young dumb spring breakers. Policies like ‘no open beverages at the beach’ really seemed to have curbed the influx of college kids. Yay! for Families trying to enjoy the same spots.

We try to balance activities the kids want to do with the few things my wife and I would like to get done while on vacation.

Feeding the fish

So yes, we did spend an inordinate amount of time feeding carp at the mini-golf place. And yes, I did end up forking over $90 bucks to get us all into the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. This was actually worth the money IMHO, there was way more to see than I thought there would be. It is the kind of ‘museum’ that is a perfect starter museum for kids.

All Hail Athena

In exchange, on our way home, Daddy gets to see the ‘accurate to scale’ replica of the PARTHENON in Nashville Tennessee (built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition) . Complete with a larger than life gilded statue of Athena. It warmed the cockels of the pagan heart.

As a bonus, I wrote up an entire piece on The Art of Complaining. This concerns our stay at the condo and how it ended getting me to FinCon18 for free.

Back to the Travel Log.


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